Common Core (SBAC) Results May Provoke Shock, Officials Urge Families to Stay Objective

Teachers, Parents, Public School Advocates, it is probably best to sit down for this one….

That bizarre and disturbing statement was the headline in a piece recently posted by the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) following this week’s meeting of a Connecticut State Department of Education Working Group.

Reporting on the event, the CEA explained;

“Details are emerging about how the new Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) program will affect students, teachers, and communities.”

Wait?  “Details are emerging”?

The Common Core Standardized Testing Scam, known as the Smarter Balanced Assessment consortium (SBAC), is actually designed to ensure that about 70 percent of Connecticut students fail. [Governor Malloy – Our children are not stupid, but your system is! and Beware the Coming Common Core Testing Disaster and A system that labels children as failures (another MUST READ by Wendy Lecker]

Not only is the Common Core testing system created to generate the false impression that Connecticut and the nation’s public education system is failing, but by tying the Common Core SBAC test results to the new inept, illogical and counter-productive Connecticut Teacher Evaluation System, the incredibly expensive “golden nugget” of the corporate education reform industry aims to denigrate teachers and blow apart what is left of the teaching profession.

But despite this truth, Governor Dannel Malloy and his administration remain wedded to the implementation of the Common Core, the Common Core standardized testing program and a teacher evaluation process based on the results of those tests.

As the CEA’s January 21 2014 blog post explains,

“Most school districts in Connecticut administered a field test last year, but this year the program will be in high gear with educators administering the tests to students in grades 3-8 and 11 this April/May.

[…]

This year, the stakes will be high as students establish a baseline for the test. Jacqueline King, who works for the SBAC program, says the baseline data about Connecticut students’ performance on the first-time test has the “potential to shock” students and their families.”

The CEA goes on to report that at this week’s Working Group Meeting,

“Members of the working group [said they] are concerned about how test results will be messaged to ensure that the public understands that the SBAC program is still a work in progress.”

How the test results will be messaged??

That the SBAC program is still a work in progress?

It was Governor Malloy’s own Commissioner of Education who joined the other state education chiefs who voted to set the “cut score” so that 70 percent of Connecticut’s public school students would be deemed failures.

It was Governor Malloy and his State Department of Education that remain committed to linking the unfair test to the state’s new teacher evaluation system.

And it is because Malloy’s complete unwillingness to de-couple the Common Core SBAC test results from the teacher evaluation system that teachers across Connecticut are being coerced to teach to the very Common Cores Standardized SBAC test that their students will fail – and those failing scores will be used to “evaluate” the teachers.

The CEA article adds,

“Mark Waxenberg, executive director of CEA, raised a series of concerns at today’s meeting, saying that the new testing program is still in “the developmental stages.”

The article also noted that Joseph Cirasuolo, who is the executive director of the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents and one the most vocal supporters of Governor Malloy’s Corporate Education Reform Industry initiative, said the results from the Common Core SBAC tests could, “scare the hell out of parents.” He apparently added, people “are talking about this as if it has a level of precision that it does not.”

“The new testing program is still in “the developmental stage”???

“A level of precision that it does not have”????

These two individuals and everyone else involved in the discussions surrounding the Common Core and Common Core testing debacle know perfectly well that the SBAC test is designed to fail 70 percent of the students and that the SBAC test will be used as a significant factor in determining which Connecticut teachers are deemed to be “good’ and which will be deemed “not good.”

Instead of raising these “concerns” at a State Department of Education Working Group, the CEA, AFT and the other Connecticut organization purportedly committed to Connecticut’s students, teachers and public schools – such as CABE and CAPSS – should be demanding that the Common Core be halted, the Common Core Tests eliminated that Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system should be fully de-coupled from the SBAC test or any other standardized tests.

As if all of this wasn’t clear enough, in what is undoubtedly one of the most incredible and shocking comments to come out of the Malloy administration yet, the representative of the State Department of Education told the SDE working group,  “best practice dictates that educators should never make consequential decisions based on a single test score.”

OMG, What the____?????

Malloy, with the support of the Connecticut legislature is the one that MANDATED the expensive and wasteful Common Core SBAC tests be given and MANDATED that the Common Core SBAC test scores be used to evaluate teachers.

As the CEA post adds,

“Connecticut’s Board of Regents for Higher Education reportedly already has placed SBAC results on its list of multiple measures that colleges and universities can use to evaluate student readiness and placement. SDE officials also envision scenarios where high schools could include SBAC scores on student transcripts (as reportedly has been done in the past with CAPT scores)…”

The real problem is that the Common Core Standards were developed without the proper participation of educators and experts in child development.

Furthermore, as has been widely reported, some of the Common Core standards are developmentally inappropriate and the foundation of the Common Cores Standards are demanding that students immediately perform at a level that is at least two grade levels above what students have been learning.

The Common Core Test (SBAC) also discriminates against English Language Learners and students who require special education services…not to mention, as noted, that the absurd and warped system is actually designed with a pass/fail rate that will ensure that nearly 7 in 10 students fail.

The real problem with the entire situation lies with the Common Core itself and the way in which the Common Core standardized tests have been designed to undermine the stability of public education in America.

The solution is that the leadership of the two major teacher unions, and all of the others committed to public education, should be retreating from their support of the Common Core and its associated testing scheme.

Yet even now, while the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers raise concerns and call for action, their fundamental position of support for the Common Core remains intact.

The National Education Association’s website reports that the,

“NEA believes the Common Core State Standards have the potential to provide access to a complete and challenging education for all children. Broad range cooperation in developing these voluntary standards provides educators with more manageable curriculum goals and greater opportunities to use their professional judgment in ways that promote student success.”

At the same time, the American Federation of Teachers says,

That if implemented carefully and with the needed supports and resources, these new standards will help improve education for all students.  At last July’s  AFT Convention, “AFT members today passed a resolution at the union’s national convention reaffirming the AFT’s support for the promise and potential of the Common Core State Standards as a way to ensure all children have the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the 21st century while sharply criticizing the standards’ botched implementation. “

But the Common Core Standards are inappropriate, unfair, and discriminatory.  The Common Core standardized tests are inexorably linked to those Common Core Standards, and until we set aside the Common Core and the Common Core testing, our nation’s children, teachers and our entire system of public education system will remain the primary target for those who seek to destroy public education for their own financial and political gain.

And when it comes to the relationship between the Common Core, Common Core testing and the teacher evaluation systems, those who are responsible for speaking up for our children, our teachers and our schools simply say enough is enough and corporate education reform initiatives need to be dismissed and real action taken to reduce the barriers to academic success – poverty, language barriers, and unmet special education needs to name a few.

Perhaps the leaders of the CEA, AFT, CABE and CAPSS should also read or re-read the commentary piece published last year by Wendy Lecker, one of the state’s leading public education advocates.

Wendy Lecker’s piece entitled, “Solution to failed tests is not more tests,” first appeared in the Stamford Advocate, and she wrote;

Fact: Connecticut’s teacher evaluation plan, because it relies on student standardized test scores, is fundamentally flawed. Student test scores cannot measure a teacher’s contribution to student learning. In fact, the president of the Educational Testing Service recently called evaluation systems based on student test scores “bad science.”

Rather than admit failure, the Malloy administration is trying futilely to “fix” the fatal flaw. Last week, PEAC, the panel charged with developing Connecticut’s teacher evaluation system, working under the direction of Commissioner Stefan Pryor, approved a change which calls for more standardized tests to be included in a teacher’s evaluation.

The commissioner’s “solution” is to add interim tests to a teacher’s rating. Determining what tests will be used, how they will be aligned to the standardized tests, and how all the test scores will be rolled into one “score” for teachers, will likely render this change completely unworkable.

However, there is an even larger issue at play. Will the addition of more tests in a teacher’s evaluation help us measure whether a teacher is effective?

According to the Connecticut Supreme Court, Connecticut’s public schools must prepare children “to participate in democratic institutions, and to prepare them to attain productive employment and otherwise to contribute to the state’s economy, or to progress on to higher education.”

Thus, we want our children to acquire the skills and knowledge that will enable them to succeed in college and in life. We want teachers who will help our children develop these skills.

Standardized tests have no bearing on college success. Moreover, although standardized tests are supposed to measure cognitive skills, research from MIT has shown that increasing test scores does not increase cognitive skills.

Even more striking is that cognitive skills, while important, are not the most important skills in determining success either in college or in life after college. Research has shown again and again that non-cognitive skills such as self-discipline, taking responsibility, and listening skills are more critical.

A recent comprehensive study by Northwestern Professor Kirabo Jackson found that children with teachers who help them develop non-cognitive skills have much better outcomes than those who have teachers who may help them raise test scores. Jackson found that every standard deviation increase in non-cognitive skills corresponds to a significant decrease in the drop-out risk and increased rates of high school graduation. By contrast, one standard deviation increase in standardized test scores has a very weak, often non-existent, relationship to these outcomes. Test scores also predict less than two percent of the variability in absences and suspensions, and under ten percent of the variability in on-time grade progression, for example.

Increases in non-cognitive abilities are also strongly correlated with other adult outcomes, such as a lower likelihood of arrest, a higher rate of employment and higher earnings. Increased test scores are not.

In short, focusing on non-cognitive abilities, those not measured by test scores, are more important in predicting success in high school and beyond.

Jackson also found that a teacher’s supposed effect on test scores is not related to how well that teacher can improve non-cognitive skills.

Moreover, a new statement by the American Statistical Association reminds us that ranking teachers based on test scores does not even work for measuring their effect on cognitive skills.

ASA notes that teachers account for 1-14 percent of the variability in student standardized test scores. The majority of variability in test scores results from “system-level conditions”; meaning everything affecting a student outside the teacher’s control: the child’s socio-economic status, parental background, language barriers, medical issues, student mobility, etc. Rating systems cannot eliminate the “noise” caused by these other factors.

ASA further states that test scores at best “predict only performance on the test.” This conclusion confirms Jackson’s results, i.e that tests cannot predict how well a student will succeed in school or life.

In the context of this evidence, what does the PEAC change mean?

By adding more tests of the same skills in the same subjects, PEAC merely added more meaningless “noise.” This addition will not give us any better picture of how well a teacher teaches.

Worse still, adding more tests increases the focus on tests, increases the frequency of testing, and distracts us from considering the skills teachers should be helping children develop. And since Connecticut’s evaluation system completely ignores these non-cognitive skills, they will be de-emphasized in school.

Meaningful evaluations systems can be developed, but relying on faulty measures is simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and taxpayers deserve better.

YES!  Connecticut’s students, parents, teachers and taxpayers deserve better.

  • Guest

    This ridiculous approach to public education is why I just took an early retirement at the end of 2014. As a teacher, I worked hard in and out of class for many, many more hours than I got paid to give my students the best possible education, but it just wasn’t worth putting up with all this foolishness anymore. What passes for teaching now (teaching to the test to satisfy bureaucrats) is a mockery of real education. I feel sorry for the students.

    • Guest Who

      I’m right behind you

      • Guest

        🙂

    • CTedFromTheTrenches

      I’ve been teaching for 10 years and it’s been nothing but a gauntlet. Our profession has been systematically marginalized and destroyed by profiteers and their propaganda. It’s getting down to now or never for public education.

    • josewald

      I’m retiring in June for the same reasons. Teaching to tests that are developmentally inappropriate and then being evaluated on the results is not what I care to do anymore.

  • Jenn

    No child should be taking this false instrument of failure that does nothing for them that is helpful while in turn leaving much damage in it’s quake. The storm around the nation is coming this Spring unless enough people catch on in time and just say no, with hopefully teachers feeling that they need to speak up as they are around the nation, however I know that is very difficult to do.

  • Philip Stull

    We know that the Governor is not likely to change, so maybe we should start following the members in the General Assembly that have some influence in this area, and see if we can get some assistance from them.

    • CTedFromTheTrenches

      I agree. I’m so tired of the ‘slow down its implementation’ drivel. Common core based testing MUST be decoupled from teacher evaluations. This bill should be sponsored and passed into law. The 2012 ‘reforms’ are toxic to great education, and our Governor is a disgrace for continuing to let it happen.

    • ReTired

      Contacting CT legislators in both the House and the Senate doesn’t always result in getting them to support your stance on this critical issue. However, a campaign that bombards them with letters, emails, phone calls will give you some peace of mind that at least you did something rather than nothing. I’m convinced that today’s legislators follow their own agenda more often than not. Politics is a dirty business.

    • Jenn

      Many bills have been introduced around common core, sbac, and the data collection issue on children, including…. not including the results to evaluate teachers, opting out, tracking implementation costs of common core, addressing unfunded mandates, and over 10 bills, which I am particularly proud of, on student data privacy that is currently unprotected in our state and then is shared out without parental consent. They have all been put forth, so now is the time to write and advocate for them with your own legislators and with the full education committee. You can see all of the education bills that were put in under the bill record book and you can find committee membership contacts there as well. http://www.cga.ct.gov/ed/

  • CTedFromTheTrenches

    Great commentary Jonathan! This recent CEA blog post blew my mind as well.

    It’s full of contradictions, half-truths, and ambiguous statements.

    Another quote that Jonathan didn’t even touch upon was:

    “SBAC intends that these categories will inform higher education AND POTENTIAL EMPLOYERS relative to college and career readiness.”

    Really… so who are these third party ’employers’ who’ll have access to such private student information?!?

    • Philip Stull

      So not only is public education seen as a profit center but also an opportunity to data mine in the future employer evaluation of employment decisions. Whatever happened to the Fourth Amendment?
      Oh now I remember, it is not on the test so we have stopped teaching about that.

      • jonpelto

        The 10 Amendments are so yesterday

    • jonpelto

      Right – that one made me so sick to my stomach I couldn’t even deal with it….. As Arne Duncan we need to be able to look every second grader in the eye and tell them whether they are on track to get into college and be a success.

  • CTSooner

    It is simple. As parents we didn’t have our children take the field tests, and in the future we will boycott future tests. Parents can end this nonsense by simply keeping their kids home.

    • jonpelto

      Yup – will have a blog in the next few days about how parents have the fundamental right (and obligation) to opt their children out of these absurd, unfair tests

      • JMC

        Yes, Jon, it’s almost time to write up the 2015 CT Opt-Out form!

  • aguest

    Uh, isn’t the problem that 70 percent of students are, in fact, failing already? http://ctmirror.org/colleges-tackle-remedial-education-problem/

    • Mary Gallucci

      Not 70% of all students (from the 2010 article linked by aguest):
      “The numbers are alarming. More than 70 percent of students in
      *Connecticut’s community college degree programs* are in need of remedial
      math or English, as are nearly *two-thirds* of students in the Connecticut
      State University System, according to a recent report by the state’s
      P-20 Council, a group of business and education leaders studying
      education and workforce issues.”
      As always, the numbers must be seen in context. The state’s “P-20” council sounds alarming enough… and why, if this Council is supposedly focused on student learning and broader questions of academics, do “business leaders” come before “education leaders”?
      Are you, aguest, from the Board of Regents or something?

      • aguest

        I wish!

        My point: while Common Core is obviously not perfect, our schools are not working right if two-thirds of their graduates, even the ones who go to lowly CT public universities (I guess you take a pretty dim view of their degree programs?), are in need of remedial classes. And a lot of the criticism of CC seems (to me, a layperson uninvolved with education) based on the fact that it’s difficult. Shouldn’t it be, given the fact that graduates aren’t up to snuff?

        I also think it’s unfair to read some sinister intent into the phrasing of the CT Mirror’s description of the P-20 group, whoever they are.

        • R.L.

          Common Core is a sick joke. Connecticut already had very good standards. There is no reason to spend millions of dollars to implement a new curriculum, well, except for the leaches collecting on the corporate welfare involved in the process. Put that money into the classroom, into expanding programs, not reducing programs under the guise of “school choice”. If we actually implemented the standards we had before this common core nonsense began, and stopped with the rampant social promotion that exists throughout the education system, we might actually make improvements as to how children are coming out of our schools and entering into adulthood.

        • cindy

          The whole thing is so twisted. The obtuse and abstract, and numerous standards in the earlier years will damage many children, leaving them in the dust. But because the standards stop progressing at 10th grade, the kids have two more years to “get it.” This is a great leveler. The only ones who will get out alive will be very advanced kids who don’t stress out over the pressure (or medicated, or social services recipients).

    • R.L.

      This is what happens when districts seek to artificially raise their graduation rates (Thank you “Dr.” Adamowski and the like). The focus should be on graduation skills. Not everyone will make it. Students have the right to free and public education. Their degree is supposed to be earned.

  • ReTired

    Never in my 45 years as an educator from Preschool to the college level have I ever seen public education in such chaos. Sadly, any young person with 1/2 a brain will avoid becoming an educator. What is even more disparaging is the fact that excellent research backing the outcome of linking student performance to teacher evaluation exists. CEA knew this and despite the evidence pushed RTT1 and RTT2. They never even lobbied to make teacher evaluation a mandatory subject of bargaining. They also gave up the BEST program in exchange for something I can’t recall, too which at least gave “failing” teachers options for assistance and additional attempts to improve. Was this program perfect? No, but at least student performance didn’t weigh in as heavily as it does now. Locals could also develop the criteria for their districts which included teacher input and a process for remediation and appeal. This is a well written article that must be shared in every local so that teachers are well informed as they carefully consider remaining in education. Local union leaders need to gather the troops, explain the facts, and put dues money into programs that counsel teachers as to what their options are for future employment.

  • Bert Stoneberg

    You may find it interesting to compare the SBAC 2014 field test results with the combined NAEP 2013 results for the SBAC states. See
    http://k12researchidaho.com/pdf/sbac2014vnaep_achievementlevels.pdf

    • jonpelto

      Thanks so much – will review

  • Guest

    70% failure rate – go figure. I was only able to teach 2/3 of the curriculum before my students were tested. Just brilliant. Another thing – school districts are at liberty to teach students the curriculum in whatever sequence they want. Makes for some inconsistencies.